Gov. Walz to keep in-person dining closed through holidays

Gov. Tim Walz will keep indoor dining at bars and restaurants on pause through the holidays, the governor’s spokesperson announced Tuesday night.

Wednesday at 1:15 p.m., the governor will make the announcement in which he will “lay out a strategy” that “prioritizes in-person learning for elementary students and continues to protect health care capacity,” his spokesperson said.

According to the statement, the new plan will help “bridge the gap to vaccination.” The first vaccinations arrived in Minnesota Monday morning.

The details about other businesses like gyms and fitness centers are not yet clear, but will be revealed Wednesday. He is also expected to provide details about social behavior.

The current closure order expires Friday. Walz has forced thousands of businesses -- including bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and more -- to close to customers since Nov. 21. Business groups are urging him to reconsider, some defiant owners say they'll open regardless of the governor's decision, and a few have sued him over the restrictions.

The governor plans to announce his huge decision during a mid-afternoon Wednesday speech. He has twice delayed the call as Minnesota's infection numbers improve.  "It appears like Minnesotans did an awful lot of things right around Thanksgiving," Walz said Tuesday. "There will be some changes to the mitigation strategy." 

Virus cases have plummeted in the past 16 days after surging in November and hitting a peak of 9,000 newly reported cases a day around Thanksgiving. Hospitalizations have also tumbled 30 percent since their Thanksgiving weekend peak.